When I learned we’d be dining at Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad, I assumed it would be at Argyle Steakhouse. I confess I was somewhat disappointed when I learned we going instead to Vivace. That disappointment vanished the instant we set foot inside. By the time our meal was over, all three of us agreed it was the finest Italian food we had enjoyed anywhere. Vivace is one of the restaurants participating in this week’s San Diego Restaurant Week going on through January 22nd.
We were charmed instantly by our server, Marshall, who has been on staff for 12 years. He made it clear from the start that he wanted us to enjoy an extraordinary evening and we certainly did. His knowledge of the wine list and the menu is beyond impressive. Our friend Al joined us for dinner and he asked Marshall to suggest a crisp white to begin with. He recommended the Michele Chiarlo Gavi from Italy made from the Cortese grape. It was the perfect choice and it paired perfectly with the amuse bouche, crispy polenta with smoked chicken and shaved Parmesan.
We still had three courses to go, and for the antipasto, I selected the seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Pannetone, quince and duck prosciutto mache. Kat opted for the roasted cauliflower crema with truffle marscapone and Romanesco while Al selected wood fire grilled octopus with sweet pepper crema, Marcona almonds and olive and Calabrese chili oil. The octopus came highly recommended by Marshall and we were thrilled we took his advice. The presentation on each dish was superior and the depth and complexity of flavors was remarkable.
More difficult decisions had to be made; what to choose for the pasta course. With Marshall’s help, I decided on the Pappardelle with braised veal, Kat went for the risotto with butter poached Maine lobster while Al chose the Rigatoni with braised shortrib Bolognese and Parmesan cheese. Each dish was elegantly plated and the flavors were extraordinary.
What we had already feasted on would have been more than enough for a full meal, but we still had an entrée and dessert to look forward to. I chose the cocoa crusted venison loin with winter squash, king trumpet mushrooms, heirloom carrots, Brussels sprouts and blueberry Barolo jus. I love venison and this was divine. We enjoyed a Franck Family Napa Zinfandel which paired beautifully. Kat had the porcini crusted prime flat-iron steak with spring onion crema, Delfino potatoes and Swiss chard with a truffle and foie gras butter. Al chose beef braciole with organic polenta and Bloomsdale spinach. We each savored every bite and remarked again on the elegant presentation.
To call Al’s dessert simply a chocolate mousse would be to do it a huge disservice. This masterpiece arrived atop a wooden box, sitting on a bed of green white chocolate with dry ice smoke. It tasted as good as it looked. Marshall insisted Kat try the Bomboloni Fritti, fried donut holes with Nutella sauce and raspberry coulis. I finished with the cheese platter featuring Robiola, Gorgonzola picante, oro antico and Tellagio. It was the perfect way to cap off an exceptional evening.
After dinner, Chef de Cuisine Kevin McCarthy came out to visit with us. We were stunned by how talented he is at such a young age. He’s been at Vivace for five years now and says he loves to prepare Italian cuisine and “put a little spin on it.” This was a meal and an evening that is etched into our permanent memories. For San Diego Restaurant Week, choose an appetizer, entrée and dessert from the special menu for $40. You’ll be delighted you decided to dine at Vivace. 7100 Aviara Resort Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92011 (760) 603-3773
Tom Plant launched WINEormous in 2009 and is a member of the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association. Based in Temecula, California, he offers intimate winery tours for no more than seven people. Tour details and pricing are available at www.temecula-tours.com. Call now to book your Temecula Winery Tour at (951) 907-9701. Ask about special discounts.